Confusion Yesterday Morning

Kate woke up around 7:30 yesterday morning to go to the bathroom. She seemed rather alert. I didn’t ask, but she acted as though she knew exactly who I am. I realize, however, that appearances don’t necessarily jibe with reality. She went back to bed and slept until 10:30. This time she was confused.

I asked if she was ready to get up. She said, “I don’t know.” She didn’t look disturbed or frightened. It wasn’t the way she has been when she has had anxiety attacks. I asked if I could help her. She said, “I don’t know.” No matter what I said she said “I don’t know.” Then I suggested that she take a shower and that might help to wake her up. She didn’t want to shower.

I took another tack. I told her she should get dressed, and we could go to the family room where I might be able to show her something that would help. As she was dressing, she asked my name and her own several times. When she was finished, we went to the family room where I picked up the “Big Sister” album. We spent about about twenty minutes looking through it before going to lunch. She didn’t recognize the cover photo of herself with her brother. When we opened to the first page of pictures, she didn’t recognize herself, or her parents. As she has done in the past, she didn’t recognize her father after I identified her mother who was sitting with him. Although she didn’t show any improvement in recognizing her family, she did seem more comfortable than before. Her intuitive abilities were working.

As we drove to lunch, she seemed normal, and I was beginning to think she knew who I was. When we walked from the car to the restaurant, she asked my name. Similar moments like this over the past week suggest that she is close to losing the ability to remember my name and relationship to her. I am not expecting this to happen suddenly, but it is becoming more and more difficult for her to remember my name. I know it will only get worse. I still take satisfaction that she recognizes me as someone she trusts.

Yesterday on Twitter I exchanged several message related to the important of feeling safe among those living with Alzheimer’s. I am also encouraged that she continues to say that she feels safe with me. When this first started occurring, I didn’t know what to make of it. The more I have watched her decline and the more I have read, I have come to realize how frightening it must be not to where one is, who one is with, and “who I am?” I don’t think I would feel safe either.

When we got home, we had about twenty minutes before our sitter, Mary, arrived. Kate wanted to know what she could do. I showed her the three-ring binder with a lot of personal and family information. She was interested. When I left for the Y, she and Mary were seated side by side on the sofa going through the information. I was encouraged.

When I got home Kate was resting on the sofa while Mary sat in a chair across from her. Mary said that she and Kate had spent most of the time looking through the binder and then a couple of the photo books. She said Kate had been resting about an hour.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Kate indicated she was glad I was home and wanted to know “What next?” I told her it was time for dinner. When we returned home, she worked on her iPad until time for bed. She needed my help periodically but never showed any sense of frustration.

She got to bed a little earlier than usual but was still awake when I joined her an hour later. This morning she was up at 8:30 and took a shower. She didn’t show any signs of confusion or grogginess and acted normally toward me. I had her clothes out for her, but she went back to bed where she is resting/sleeping now. We don’t have any special obligations today. I will let her sleep until 11:00 if she doesn’t get up earlier.

The big event of the day actually comes tonight. Kate’s brother, Kevin and his wife, Virginia, are flying in for a short visit. Their flight doesn’t arrive until 7:00 this evening. They are renting a car and will meet us at the restaurant where I have made dinner reservations. Kate has changed a good bit since their visit in the fall, but I am optimistic that it will go well. I will be eager for the two of them to have some time together as they did on their previous visit. We have plenty of photo books to inspire good conversation. I am looking forward to having them with us.

Our Easter

Since our friend Ellen had her stroke almost four years ago, Easter has been a bit different for us. For years she hosted her church choir for lunch at her house. That is now a thing of the past, and we have replaced that custom by eating at a restaurant. That makes it pretty much the same as other days.

The day started slowly when Kate didn’t want to get up. That is the second time in the past three days. She insisted that I go without her, but I told her I didn’t feel comfortable leaving her. This comes at the same time she is beginning to rest a little more in the afternoon.

We went to lunch at a place that has an Easter buffet. That has become more difficult for her, but I seated her before going to the buffet to get her food. This required two trips as it is a bit cumbersome for me to maneuver two plates around the four or five different serving tables and then back to our own. In addition, it required me to leave Kate while I went to a separate room where the buffet was located. The meal was good, but I don’t think I will do this again. It is much easier to go where there is wait service.

Kate was in a good mood despite her not wanting to get up. That’s one of the good things about memory loss. She quickly forgets moments like this. As we were eating, she said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Richard Creighton.” She repeated it. Then I said “And I’m your husband.” She gave me a dirty look and said, “I know that.” A few minutes later, she asked, “Are  we married?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “I thought so.”

We went home after lunch. Kate said she wanted to rest and remained in bed for almost three hours. By then, it was close to dinner time. As we drove out of the driveway to the restaurant, she said, “I like this place, but I’m ready to go home.” I said, “It’s always nice to be at home.”

As we approached the restaurant, Kate said, “Are you married?” I said, “Are you?” She said, “No.” She said, “Are you?” I said, “Yes. I married a sweet gal named Kate Franklin.” Kate said, “So we are married?” I asked how she felt about that. She said she was fine. I said, “That’s good because we’ve been married a long time.” Since we were close to the restaurant, we didn’t pursue it further.

On the way back, she said, “What can I do when we get home?” For the first time, it struck me that she said “home.” I hadn’t thought about it before, but I usually feel that she doesn’t know where we are or where we are going. I think I am right most of the time, but we do go directly home after eating meals. That must be stored deep within her memory.  I suggested that we look at one of her photo books. She thought that was a good idea, and we spent well over an hour looking at one of her father’s family. She enjoyed every minute but was getting tired. We adjourned to the bedroom where she worked on her iPad until it was time to go to bed. I have had to encourage her to get to bed many nights lately, but that wasn’t necessary this time.

Even though she was in bed a good portion of the entire day, we enjoyed ourselves. After we were in bed, we talked briefly about the day and agreed it had been a good one.

The Fickle Nature of Memory

The other night at Casa Bella I saw a woman who has been a regular the entire time we have been going to their music nights. For the first time she was without her husband. I saw her afterward and asked about him. She told me he is now in memory care. I was surprised. I’ve seen him about once a month for the past four or five years. How could I have missed that?

By now, I should know. It’s not really hard at all. Even at this late stage, Kate can get along quite well in short-term social encounters without anyone’s suspecting. The nature of most social interactions is so superficial that it’s easy to miss a “disability” that has so little or no visible signs.

As Kate’s husband, I have far more opportunity to observe the many signs that others can’t see. That makes me think of something that can be hard for others to understand. That is the surprising way in which she can switch from “knowing” to “not knowing.” One of the best examples is the issue of her “knowing” me. In a couple of months it will be a year since she first asked my name. It would easy to think that she had “forgotten” my name, that it was completey forgotten it. That wasn’t so, and it isn’t so with other memory problems.

All of us have similar experiences. We forget one moment, but we remember in another. We don’t think much about it. I believe that is why people don’t ordinarily think they may have dementia in the early stages. As time passes, the memory problems become more frequent and enduring. That’s when they take on new meaning, especially for the person herself and those close to her.

My experience with Kate has made me realize how little I knew about my mother’s dementia. I was with her a lot, but not nearly enough to understand the full extent of her problems. My father said very little. That meant I was largely ignorant of what was really going on.

Living with Alzheimer’s through Kate has opened my eyes to many things. One of those is how memory comes and goes although the trajectory is always in the direction of less ability to remember. Kate is at a stage when her memory doesn’t usually last more than a few seconds. Even then, her memory is inconsistent. What I mean is that at one moment she can remember a name. In another, she forgets it, and quickly thereafter remembers again.

Last night she put down her iPad. Suspecting that she might have gotten frustrated with it, I asked if she would like to look at one of her family photo albums. She liked the idea, and I brought her the “Big Sister Album.”

As I handed it to her, she noticed the cover photo of her and her brother. She loves that photo and almost always comments on their smiles. This time she didn’t say anything. She took a moment to look at it. Many times she recognizes both children. Other times she doesn’t. She said, “Is that me?” I told her it was. She pointed to her brother and said, “Who’s that?” I told her it was her brother Ken. Then she looked at the photo more carefully and did comment on the smiles. She was hooked.

I was about to take a shower and thought this would occupy her until I got out. I discovered, however, that she had difficulty reading the text and couldn’t recognize her family. She wanted me to help her. It wasn’t a complete failure to recognize her parents, her brother, or grandmother. Sometimes she did. Sometimes she didn’t. That could relate to the photos themselves. Some are sharper than others, and sometimes people can look a little different from different angles or when they are in different contexts.

In this case, I don’t know exactly why. I do know that her vision is affected by her Alzheimer’s. I also suspect that her memory of faces is becoming more limited as well. I also know that the loss of her rational ability prevents her from making connections that would help her guess the people in many of the photos. You and I would understand that the odds are pretty high that they would be of her parents, her grandmother, her brother, or herself. She doesn’t appear to recognize that.

I did get in a quick shower, but we spent about forty minutes going through the album. I recorded about five minutes of that time. Here are a few examples.

Richard:        “That is your Nana, and look who she’s with.”

Kate:              “Me.”

Richard:        (Pointing to Ken) “Who else is there?”

Kate:              “And who’s that?”

Richard:        “That’s Ken.”

Kate:              (Very excited.) “That’s Ken? My brother.”

Richard:        “Yes, your brother.”

Kate:              (Chuckles with excitement like a little child)

Richard:        “Now who do you think these three are?”

Kate:              “I don’t know.”

Richard:        “Those are you.”

Kate:              (pointing) “That’s me?”

Richard:        “Each one of those is you.”

Kate:              “That one too?”

Richard:        “That’s you on a tricycle.”

A Page Later

Kate:              “Oooh. That’s wonderful.”

Richard:        “Who do you think those people are?”

Kate:              “My daddy and me. . . Look each one is happy, especially me.”

We moved further through the book. We saw many more pictures of her father and her mother. Early on, she asked me their names. Each time she would repeat them. Sometimes the very next picture was her father. She would say, “Who’s that?” I would tell her, and she would ask, “What’s his name?” I would tell her, and we would go to the next picture and repeat the same questions. Not always, but sometimes. It makes me wonder what triggers memory and what causes it to disappear as rapidly as it appeared. That’s something I’ll probably never know.

I see these kind of things a good portion of every day. The servers we see in restaurants or the friends we bump into or almost anyone else we encounter on a daily basis would never know. In fact, there is much I don’t know myself. For example, I wonder how long Kate was struggling with my name before she finally asked me. I suspect she might have had some hesitation the first time. Now it is as natural to ask her name or mine as breathing air.

I believe there is something else captured in the conversation above. That is how happy she is. It is obviously saddening to see her stumble over names, but the excitement she experiences as she goes through her album offsets the sadness. I hope she is able to maintain this spirit for a long time. I know that I’m going to do everything I can to help.

Growing Confusion

I can’t say that I am observing any new symptoms of Kate’s Alzheimer’s; however, I sense that she is sinking deeper into confusion. The things I report below may sound familiar to you. Just try to imagine that the way she looks and the way she says things suggest something more serious than before.

One of those things is a more consistent failure to realize she is at home. She is routinely ready to take her toothbrush and toothpaste whenever we leave the house. I think she believes we are leaving a hotel. It is becoming commonplace for her to ask where we are when she wakes up.

It also involves an increase in the frequency with which she doesn’t know I am her husband as well as the length of time it takes for her to accept that I am. As we walked from the car to the restaurant for lunch day before yesterday, she said, “Who are you?” I said, “Richard Creighton.” She said, “I know that. Who are you?” I said, “I’m your husband.” She said, “Oh.” There was no other indication of surprise, uneasiness, or enthusiasm. She got the information she wanted and accepted it. While we were eating, she said, “Are you the owner of this place?” I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but she often attributes things to me with which I have no connection. The most common one occurs when we are listening to music in the car. She often says, “Is that you singing?”

At lunch yesterday, she asked my name and then hers. Then she asked, “Who are you?” When I told her, she didn’t believe me. I decided to tell her about our first date and our courtship while I was working at the funeral home. As I recited these experiences she began recognize them. Then I told her we would celebrate our fifty-sixth anniversary next month. I don’t mean to suggest that all her memories came back. It was just enough for her to accept that we are married. Then she asked if we have children.

She is much needier now. She is comfortable with Mary, our sitter; however, when I arrived home that same afternoon, Kate was especially glad to see me. She asked where we were and wanted to get away. She was was relieved when I told her we were at home. I don’t think she feels as comfortable asking Mary where she is.

On the way to dinner that night, she told me she really needs me. She has said this many times before, but it seems different now. Her facial and vocal expressions convey a greater need than the way she used to say it.

The other night after dinner, she wanted to know what to do. This, too, is becoming more common. I told her she could work on puzzles while I watched the news. She did that for almost an hour. Then she got frustrated. I suggested she look at her “Big Sister” photo album. She did for a while but stopped when I put on a DVD of Les Miserables.

Last night as we walked along the sidewalk to Casa Bella, she said something nice that prompted me to remind her that we have been together a long time. She asked how long. I told her almost 56 years since our wedding. She gave me a funny look and said, “Whose wedding?” I repeated that it was ours. She said, “No. You shouldn’t even joke about that.” This time I didn’t try to convince her as I did earlier at lunch.

There are lots of little things that suggest her increasing dependence. One of those is wanting to hold my hand more often than in the past. She frequently says, “I don’t need to, but I feel better.” She also wants my hand to help her in and out of the car and accepts my help buckling her seat belt. During dinner last night, she repeatedly asked me if her iced tea and water was hers. This is not new, but it is more frequent now. She is unsure of what is hers and what is someone else’s. She recognizes that she makes mistakes and doesn’t want to drink one that belongs to another person.

I have been eager to celebrate the many good times we’ve had since Kate’s diagnosis. I’ve also tried to be honest about the problems we have faced. We still have many good moments, but there is no escaping what lies ahead. It saddens me deeply to watch her slowly drift away like this, but I am heartened by hearing from others about precious moments with their loved ones who are farther along on this journey than Kate. In addition, I feel a greater resolve to make the rest of her life as fulfilling as I can.

An Example of Kate’s Rational and Intuitive Thinking

Shortly after 7:00 this morning, I looked at the video cam and noticed that Kate was up. I went to the bedroom just as she was coming out of the bathroom. She gave me a nice smile. I hugged and greeted her. Then she got back in bed. As I was about to leave the room, we had this brief conversation.

Kate:              “Where are we?”

Richard:        “In our home in Knoxville.”

Kate:              “It’s nice.”

Richard:        “Yes, there’s no place like home.”

Kate added: “With you.” <pause> “What’s your name?”

I didn’t try to determine if she knew that I am her husband. Based on recent experience, I would say there was a 50/50 chance, but her intuitive ability enables her to respond to me as someone she recognizes and cares about. Something very similar occurred last night when we went to bed. She moved close to me and put her arm across my chest. She said, “I love you. Good Night.”  Then she asked my name and hers.

Losing Two “Old Friends”

Like other people with dementia, Kate’s memory is progressively worse all the time. At the time of her diagnosis, we were told that she would remember the things that were most important the longest. I’d say that’s the way it has worked out. This week I have seen the signs that two of her favorites are now dropping from her memory.

One of those is Willie Nelson. I think her fondness for him relates mostly to the fact that he’s a Texan. For years, her eyes have brightened at the mention of his name. Recently, that has been replaced by a question. “Who is he?” I don’t mean that he is completely forgotten. I expect there will be other times when she responds the way she used to; however, the fact that she hasn’t known a few times suggests that his name is gradually receding from her memory bank.

Willie hasn’t been nearly as important as something else in Kate’s life – Dr. Pepper. That’s a popular drink in Texas and with her family. Her cousin played an important role in the establishment of the Dr. Pepper Museum. She has a variety of Dr. Pepper memorabilia at our house. It has been her preferred drink for as long as I have known her. That is now changing.

She has always been particular about the mixture of seltzer to syrup when she gets a Dr. Pepper from a fountain like they have at many self-serve locations. She likes it to match what she gets in cans. Over the past year or so and especially the past few months, she hasn’t liked the Dr. Pepper she is served in restaurants. She has asked me to taste them, and I can’t tell any difference. Although I am not as sensitive as she is, I believe it is her taste that is changing and not the drinks themselves.

The big surprise, however, came last night when we went to dinner. As she got out of the car, she said, “What am I going to have to drink?” I don’t recall her ever asking that before, especially before we have entered the restaurant. I told her they probably had Dr. Pepper and, if not, she could have her half-sweet and half-unsweetened tea. She said, “What is Dr. Pepper?” I was shocked. That was the first time she has failed to recognize her favorite drink. When the server asked what she would like to drink, I looked at Kate and said, “Dr. Pepper?” She gave a frown. I told the server to bring her iced tea.

It may seem a bit trivial to others, but I look at this as yet another marker on this journey.

A Taste of This Morning’s Conversation

At almost 9:00 this morning, I saw that Kate was getting out of bed. I went to her and asked what I could do for her. She asked me to get her clothes. I asked if she wanted to take a shower first. She did, and we walked to the bathroom. As I started to get the shower ready for her, she took off her night gown, and we had the following conversation.

Kate:              “What is your name?”

Richard:        “Richard.”

Kate:              “What’s your full name?”

Richard:        “Richard Lee Creighton.”

Kate:              “What’s my name?”

Richard:        “Katherine Franklin Creighton.”

Kate:              “That sounds right. And who are you?”

Richard:        “I’m your husband.”

Kate:              “Noooo.”

Richard:        “Let’s talk about that later. Why don’t you take your shower now.”

Kate:              (Getting into the shower) “Who are you?”

Richard:        “Do you think I’m a friendly guy?”

Kate:              “Yes.”

Richard:        “I’m your husband.”

Kate:              (Puzzled look) “Okay. <pause> What’s your name?”

Richard:        “Richard Lee Creighton.”

Kate:              “What should I call you?”

Richard:        “Richard.”

After her shower, she went back to bed for about forty-five minutes. Then she got up to dress. She didn’t ask my name or who I am. She acted as though she knew. I wanted to ask but didn’t. I think she knew.

Another Day of “Happy-Sad” Moments

For the second day in a row, Kate got up early. I was especially glad because she had a 10:30 appointment with her ophthalmologist. It was her final follow-up visit after her cataract surgery. I planned to wake her about 9:00. I knew even that might cause her to rush. I also assumed we wouldn’t have time to get her a muffin before the appointment. It turned out we didn’t need to rush at all. She got up at 8:00. That enabled us to stop by Panera for her muffin and work a few jigsaw puzzles before hand. We were early enough to see several people in the Catholic group that comes regularly after morning mass. It has been several months since we have seen the Baptists who have Bible study on Tuesdays from 9:30 to 10:30. I have heard indirectly that they have been asking about us.

The good news about the doctor’s appointment is that she said Kate’s eye had healed nicely. She also removed a stitch she had put in to protect the implant if Kate had forgotten she wasn’t supposed to rub her eye. That turned out to be a good plan. Testing her eyesight is almost impossible. Although she tested at 20/50 a month ago, she didn’t do as well two weeks ago. Yesterday was even worse. It is hard for her to know how to follow instructions and where to focus. They finally took her to another room where they were able to test her through digital technology.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to North Carolina, to attend a show at the Flatrock Playhouse. On the way, Kate repeatedly asked where we were and where we were going. At this stage of her Alzheimer’s, it is simply impossible for her to remember things like this. Her brain won’t “allow” it. We also had one of those conversations in which we talk about about our marriage, our families, and the many experiences we have had followed by her asking my name and her name. As usual, she asked without any sense of frustration or concern. She just wanted to know. I never mind her asking. It’s those times she is troubled by not knowing that bother me. We had one of those later in the evening.

We made this trip at the invitation of a couple we know from Casa Bella. We have attended one other show at the Playhouse with them in the fall. Kate, of course, never remembers them, but she enjoys being with them. They are friendly people, and she feels comfortable with them. Last night’s performance was the comedienne Jeanne Robertson. This was the first time time in our marriage that we had attended a performance by a comic other than as part of a variety show on a cruise. Kate doesn’t generally take to comedians, and I was worried that she wouldn’t enjoy her. Before accepting the invitation I looked at a couple of YouTube segments of some of her other shows and decided it was worth a chance. I’m glad I did. Kate thoroughly enjoyed it. I am sure she didn’t understand much of it, but a good comedian is successful for much more than the exact words. She enjoyed it so much that I was a bit surprised when we saw Robertson in the lobby talking with others who had attended, and Kate had no idea who she was. That was true even after I explained that she was the one we had seen on stage in the auditorium.

As we walked to dinner and from dinner to the Playhouse, Kate whispered to me, “Where are we?” She repeated her question a number of times as well as when we went to our hotel for the night. When we got to our room, she said, “I sure am glad I’m with you. I have no idea where I am.” That was the beginning of a lengthy conversation that continued off and on for about an hour. She said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate what you do for me.” I told her that everything I do for her is because I love her. She was a bit teary but never broke into a full cry.

During the early part of the conversation, it sounded like she understood that she has Alzheimer’s. She said things like, “You’re the only one who knows what I am going through, and I even have trouble remembering your name. I do sometimes, but . . .” As she talked a little more, I learned that she was disturbed because she has lost “so many of my family.” She was worried that she had not done enough for them. I tried to encourage her. I reminded her of the way she had cared for her mother and how good we both felt about having her in our home the last years of her life.

On this particular trip she seemed to be less at ease in a strange place than at any other time. I’ve been looking for this on our previous trips but haven’t observed it. I’m not even sure about this one, but a few times she said, “I’ll be glad when we get home.” One of the reasons it is hard to determine if it is uneasiness about being in a strange place is that she sometime says the same thing when we are at home. In those cases, I don’t know if she thinks we are in Texas and wants to go to Knoxville or if she understands we are in Knoxville and wants to go home to Texas.

When I got ready to shower, she asked if it would be all right if she worked on her iPad. I told her that would be fine. She said, “Are you sure?” I told her this was a time she could relax and do whatever she wanted. I reminded her that we had no commitments in the morning, and she could sleep as late as she wanted.

It wasn’t until we turned out the lights and were in bed that she said, “Thank you. I’m beginning to relax now.” She continued to talk for a while. Then she drifted off to sleep. She slept until 5:00 this morning when she got up to go to the bathroom. When she got back in bed, she wanted to know “Where are we?” I told her, but she asked several more times. It took her a good while to get back to sleep. It is now 9:45. She is still sleeping soundly. If she doesn’t wake before, I will get her up around 11:00 so that we can get home early in the afternoon.

Considering everything, it was a very good day. She was in a good humor and enjoyed herself. She seems comfortable with the friends who invited us and loved the show last night. What more could I ask this long after her diagnosis? We continue to have good times. How fortunate we are.

A Day of Uplifting Social Experiences

At 9:40 yesterday morning, I saw on the video cam that Kate was up and walking back to bed. I went to her and discovered that she had gone to the bathroom next to our bedroom. I said, “I see you’re up.” She said, “For the moment.” She pulled back the covers and got back into bed. She said, “Is that all right?” I said, “That’s fine.”

An hour later at 10:45, I brought her clothes to her, and we had the following conversation.

Richard:        “Today is a special day. It’s your daddy’s birthday.”

Kate:              (She smiled.) “What’s his name?”

Richard:        “Carl Franklin. He was a good man and he loved his little girl.”

Kate:              “Who are you?” (In a very natural, conversational tone)

Richard:        “Before I tell you, do you recognize me?”

Kate:             “Sure. You have a nice voice. I know other people tell you that.”

Richard:        “I’m Richard Creighton, and I’m your husband.”

Kate:              “How did we meet?”

Richard:        “We met at a friend’s house on a Sunday evening in September, 1960.”

Apart from her memory loss, she was very relaxed and seemed just fine. She expressed no uneasiness about not knowing my name or my being her husband.

When she was ready, we went to lunch. On the way, she asked me where we were four or five times and several times on the way home. We had a very pleasant lunch at Carla’s. We hadn’t seen the hostess in a couple of weeks. I asked where she had been. She told us that she and her siblings had moved their mother from Guam where the family had grown up. During our meal, an acquaintance took a table next to ours. She was meeting friends who had not yet arrived. She sat down at our table and we chatted until her friends arrived. We don’t know her that well. She is French but spent most of her youth in Egypt where her father was a dentist. It was nice getting to know her a little better.

Although we eat lunch there almost every Tuesday, Kate commented on the restaurant as though she had never been there before. They serve gelato that we both love, but she never remembers that. It seems like her sense of taste is not nearly as strong as her other senses. <g>

When we returned home, Kate asked me what she “could do now.” I told her we could go into the family room where she could work on her iPad. She said that would be fine. She wanted to know where she should sit. I pointed to a chair and told her she usually sat there so that she could look outside to the back yard. I put her iPad on the chair. She walked over, picked it up and said, “What’s this?” I told her that was her iPad. I took it from her and said, “Let me show you what you can do with it.” I opened the cover and touched the icon for her puzzle app. As it started to load, I said, “Now watch what happens.” I showed her a selection of puzzles of flowers and said, “When you touch one of them, it will break into pieces that you can put together.” She looked amazed and said, “That’s neat.” It was as if she had never seen it before. It is hard to believe this is possible when she spends as much as 6 hours a day working such puzzles.

While she was working on her iPad, I tuned into a station featuring the music of Frank Sinatra and other singers of his period. The first song was “New York, New York.” I can’t remember the last time we heard that song, but she recognized it before she heard the first words. A little later, we heard Rosemary Clooney singing “Mambo Italiano.” She chuckled in recognition as it played. I said, “This is ‘Old-fashioned’ music. She said, “I love it.” As much as I’ve observed the power of music for her, I was still taken aback by how quickly she recognized these old songs when shortly before she hadn’t even remembered what her iPad can do.

After a while, I suggested we go to Barnes & Noble. She liked the idea. I was happy about that. I felt it would be good for both of us to get out of the house. That worked out well. We had conversations with two different people. One is a member of our church who meets with a group of other men each Tuesday afternoon. The other is a young woman who tutors students there almost every weekday. We often chat with her in between or before her students arrive.

Kate began to have problems working her puzzles, and I suggested it was a good time to break for dinner. We went to Bonefish Grill where we know the hostess and several servers who speak to us even when they are not serving us. It is the only restaurant we frequent where we don’t have just one server that we request each time. That has made for an added bit of social activity when we dine there – even when we don’t see other people we know. Before taking our seats, Kate wanted to go to the restroom. I walked her to the door and walked back to my seat where I could see her when she came out. The servers look out for her as well. Last night our server was walking back to the kitchen when Kate came out of the restroom. She walked Kate back to our table. Eating out turned out to be another social experience for us.

As we were winding down the day at home, our son Kevin called. It was nice way to end our day.  It was a good day. That doesn’t mean there was any improvement in Kate’s condition, but I felt we had a day of more uplifting experiences than some recent days. That keeps us going.

A Rocky Start with a Nice Finish

Yesterday morning I had two surprises. I was happy about the first one. Not so for the second. First, the good news. I saw on the video cam that Kate was up, and it was about 8:00. I always like it when she gets up without my having to wake her. That is especially true on a day that we have a sitter. That insures that I don’t have to rush her before the sitter arrives. It’s even better on Monday because the sitter comes at noon instead of 1:00.

When I got to the bedroom, she had just come out of the bathroom. She seemed alert and showed no signs of confusion. I asked if she was going to take a shower. She said she was. I knew that she would want to rest a while after her shower, but I also knew that we had plenty of time and still might be able to get to Panera for her muffin, something that is a rarity these days. As expected, she got her shower and went back to bed.

A few minutes after 10:00 I decided to get her up. That’s when I received the second surprise of the morning. She wasn’t asleep, but her eyes were closed. I asked if she would like me to take her to get a muffin. She gave me a strange look. She wasn’t the same alert Kate I had greeted earlier. She was clearly confused. When I said that I had her clothes out and would help her get dressed, she looked at me sternly and said, “Who are you?” I gave her my name and told her I was her husband. She was surprised. That is not unusual; however, she was obviously uncomfortable and pulled the covers up to her neck. I said, “You do recognize me, don’t you?” She didn’t and didn’t want me to help her dress. This was totally unlike any of our previous experiences. There wasn’t any way that I was going to explain this.

I didn’t push her. I told her I thought I could help her and got her “Big Sister” album. I showed her the photo of her and her brother on the cover. She didn’t show any sign of recognition until I pointed to her picture and said, “Who do you think this little girl is?” She hesitated and then said, “Me.” I turned to the first page and showed her a photo of her with her mother and daddy. Then I turned to a section that has a few of our wedding pictures. She didn’t remember anything.

I decided she just needed a little more time. I told her I wanted to take her to get a muffin. She asked about her clothes. I showed them to her and suggested she get dressed. By this time, she was beginning to feel more comfortable with me, but she still did not believe I was her husband. She did, however, let me help her dress.

When she was dressed, she noticed a wedding picture of our daughter, Jesse, on the dresser and said, “Who is she?” I explained that she was our daughter. She walked over to it and asked if she could take it with us. I told her she could. She asked where she could keep it. I told her this was our room and that she could keep it right there on the dresser if she liked. She still wanted to take it with her.

In the car on the way to Panera, I said, “You seem like you’re feeling less confused now.” She acknowledged that she was and said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Richard Lee Creighton.” Then she asked me her name. I said, “Katherine Franklin Creighton.” She frowned when she heard “Creighton.” I didn’t say anything.

When we got closer to Panera, she asked my name again. I told her and added that I was her husband. She wasn’t buying that. After we had been seated a while, she asked my name. I told her and said that I was her husband. She didn’t believe me. Again, I didn’t push.

We had been at Panera about forty minutes when I thought we needed to get home for the sitter. On the way I reached out my hand and touched her leg and said, “I love you.” She put her fingers to her lips and blew me a kiss and said, “I love you too.” I took that as a sign that she had finally recognized who I was.

The sitter arrived a few minutes after we were home, and Kate seemed perfectly normal. I said I was going to Rotary, and she said, “What are we going to do?” I told her that she and Cindy could go to lunch at either Applebee’s or Panera. She said, “Why don’t you go with us?” I explained that I needed to attend my meeting. She didn’t seem to mind that, but I was glad to see that she would have felt even better if I had stayed.

When I returned home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kate and Cindy were having a conversation in the family room. Kate seemed to be taking the lead. Cindy said they had gone to Applebee’s for lunch and come back to the house. She said Kate had not worked on her iPad at all and that they had been talking the whole time. That was another surprise and a welcome one. I was happy for two reasons. First, that she hadn’t had a nap. Second, because she was able to engage in conversation for such a long period of time and that she was doing a lot of the talking. I want Kate to develop a strong relationship with her. This was a dramatic contrast with her confusion this morning. I felt much better.

The rest of the day went very well. We spent about an hour and a half at Barnes & Noble and then went out for a Mexican meal at Chalupas. She spent the rest of the evening working on her iPad while I watched the news. Then I turned on a series of YouTube videos for her. Several times she needed help with her puzzles, but she seemed to get along well after that. When I told her it was bedtime, she was very cooperative. She slept through the night and is still sleeping as I finish this post at 7:30.